American International Pictures was a com­pa­ny that nev­er allowed a proven suc­cess to grow cold: if any film they released did very well, they would have a sequel or sim­i­lar-type film in the pipeline a short while lat­er. Thus, when Blacula was a box office hit, it was no sur­prise that A.I.P. had a sequel in the­aters the next year. Scream Blacula Scream was that sequel and it offers insight into both the ben­e­fits and the draw­backs of strik­ing while the hit-movie iron’s still hot.

SBlacS-posIn Scream Blacula Scream, trag­ic vam­pire Mamuwalde (William Marshall) is revived via a rit­u­al by Willis (Richard Lawson), a young man look­ing to take con­trol of the voodoo cult he is part of. In short order, Mamuwalde has trans­formed Willis into a vam­pire under­ling and is using his home as a base of oper­a­tions. Mamuwalde finds him­self drawn to Willis’ rival in the voodoo cult, a gift­ed priestess named Lisa (Pam Grier). He real­izes she can use her skills to take away his curse of vam­pirism but her ex-cop boyfriend (Don Mitchell) is going to stand in his way. There’s also the con­cern of the vic­tims he’s amass­ing, which arouse the inter­est of the police…

Scream BlSBlacS-01acu­la Scream is the kind of sequel that works in fits and starts. It is held back by the messy, episod­ic qual­i­ty of a script that was clear­ly rushed into pro­duc­tion before it was ready. There are plen­ty of appeal­ing and inter­est­ing ele­ments in play but it takes half the film for the “voodoo cure” premise to come into focus — and once it does, the plot­ting and han­dling of char­ac­ter arcs gets slop­pier by the min­ute as it hurtles towards a hasti­ly-con­ceived finale that feels incom­plete.

That said, Mamuwalde remains a com­pelling hor­ror vil­lain and Marshall gives a com­mand­ing, vivid per­for­mance that props up the mean­der­ing script. He sells the audi­ence on the character’s trag­ic qual­i­ty, name­ly that he has a code of hon­or despite his afflic­tion: there’s a great scene where he chas­tis­es a pair of pimps for imi­tat­ing their “slave mas­ters.” Grier is inter­est­ing as the priestess: it’s more of a retir­ing, less assertive role than she usu­al­ly played but she brings plen­ty of emo­tion to her work.SBlacS-02

Scream Blacula Scream also ben­e­fits from styl­ish direc­tion by Bob Kelljan. He was already expe­ri­enced with vam­pire movies thanks to his work on the Count Yorga series so he brings a real atmos­phere of dread to the sce­nes where Mamuwalde stalks his prey. The open­ing voodoo rit­u­al is also a mem­o­rably intense sequence, as is a scene where Blacula res­cues Lisa from one of his vam­pire ser­vants. He can’t quite over­come the mean­der­ing sto­ry­line but he makes its key moments count.

In short, Scream Blacula Scream is mid­dling as a sequel to Blacula but fans of the first film will still want to see it because of Marshall’s per­for­mance, the nov­el­ty of Grier in a dif­fer­ent kind of role and the effec­tive­ness of the director’s set­pieces. Enough ele­ments work here to make one wish that Mamuwalde could have got­ten one more sequel to fin­ish his saga in a grand way.